Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group terrorizing Nigeria and surrounding countries, is drastically increasing its use of children as suicide bombers, according to a UNICEF report released Tuesday. The Los Angeles Times reports Boko Haram used four children as suicide bombers in 2014. Last year, they used 44—33 of them girls, whose loose dresses make it easier to conceal bombs. These children, some as young as 8, have killed scores of people in populated areas around Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad. The UNICEF report, Beyond Chibok, is named after an incident that happened two years ago in Chibok, Nigeria, when 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, according to the Washington Post. Most of them are still missing. Since then, 20% of all Boko Haram suicide bombers have been children.
But UNICEF spokesperson Doune Porter says "suicide bomber" is a harmful and inaccurate term when it comes to the children used by Boko Haram. “They’re all very traumatized," Porter tells the Times. "They have gone through the most awful beatings and rapes. Some of them have been raped by many different people." She says the children used as bombers are either forced to do it, brainwashed, or are simply too young to understand the consequences. Girls are captured when Boko Haram takes over their villages and forced into sexual slavery. Porter says if they refuse to marry their captors, they are forced to become bombers. All told, the war being waged by Boko Haram has displaced 1.3 million children since 2013. And yet UNICEF's report finds the world has largely ignored their plight. (Read more Boko Haram stories.)